Cavan Wilk posts a DC area transit wish-list for both the near- and the short-term. But he leaves off what I think is one of the very most promising things a city like ours can do — improve bus service. Unlike rail projects, bus improvements can be feasibly undertaken in piecemeal ways rather than in quantum leaps. You can buy a few more vehicles and increase service frequency. You can add bus lanes just on parts of routes. You can build a handful of bulb-outs to speed boarding. Nothing needs to be done in gigantic, multibillion dollar leaps. And relative to rail, buses are disproportionately likely to be used by full-time residents (as opposed to tourists) and by poor people both of which are appropriate targets for our disproportionate concern.
One particular low cost thing that would improve DC’s bus service would be to redesign the little schedule cards that are posted at most bus stops. The way this information is currently displayed in DC does not reflect state-of-the-art thinking and should be changed. They should probably also consider eliminating stops on many lines so as to allow buses to run the route more quickly and therefore also arrive more often. Rather than walking two blocks and waiting five minutes for the bus which then moves slowly to your destination I think most people would rather walk five blocks, wait one minute for the bus, and then get where you’re going quickly. Beyond that — bus lanes, bulb-outs, more buses, better shelters — it’s all pretty obvious what would make for better bus service. It’s mostly an issue of financial and political commitment, but it can do a lot to improve quality of life in the area.